If you saw the buzz about Twitter today — or maybe you just saw people angrily yelling about not having to “fix” baseball — you probably already know about the bizarre idea floating around to add a “Catch-Up Rule” to the game.
If you haven’t heard of it, it’s as simple as it is... confusing? Interesting? Awful? I’m not sure where I stand on it quite yet.
The long and short of it is, if a game is tied, each team gets three outs. Duh, obviously. Who would possibly want to change that? But if and when a team pulls ahead by at least a run, they are limited to two outs per inning until the lead changes back to the other team. The idea spawns from the notion that baseball needs to have shorter games. Limit the outs, limit the game time. Sure, that technically works, but decentivize teams to play well probably isn’t the best solution. Not to mention the fact that the symmetry and simplicity of baseball’s scoring rules is one of the things that make it so great.
I do have to say that I don’t think the idea is some outlandish, awful thing that would forever ruin my life and the lives of those around me. I think it’s dumb and kind of pointless, sure, but if you get past the click-baity post that Jason Gay put together to get the idea to the world — with the needlessly dramatic, headline “A Radical Pitch to Save Baseball” on Wall Street Journal and it’s “if you don’t like this you must be a crusty old baseball fan attitude!” throughout — it’s just two guys who came up with a neat little idea to alter baseball and see what would happen.
Seriously, just skip the Wall Street Journal puff piece and read the little Word doc Steve J. Brams and Aaron Isaksen put together on it. There are a lot of interesting thoughts in it.
Back to the game at hand, let’s pretend for a moment that MLB Commisioner Rob Manfred saw this idea and loved it so much that he implemented it before tonight. Less than seven hours from the time it hit digital ink to being made into official baseball law. What could go wrong?
Because tonight’s Indians-Twins game was such a trainwreck that I’d rather not talk about (besides Francisco Lindor stealing his 20th base to himself and Jose Ramirez the only Indians teammates besides Toby Harrah and Bobby Bonds to have 20 home runs and 20 stolen bases in a season), I thought it’d be a more fun idea to put this idea to the test in a game that would have changed dramatically with it.
So let’s do that.
Right off the bat, from the bottom of the first inning, the inning ends after Yonder Alonso singled home Francisco Lindor. That gives the Indians a 1-0 lead and they already have two outs in the inning — by law of the Catch-Up Rule, the inning is now over.
Instead of Twins starting pitcher Kohl Stewart having to labor through three more batters, give up another run, and nearly run himself out of the game in the first inning, it’s over after only a handful of batters.
End of 1
Real Score: Indians 2, Twins 0
CUR Score: Indians 1, Twins 0
Already the butterfly effect of this fake scenario comes into play. If the first inning really ended there, Greg Allen wouldn’t have started the second inning, Stewart’s arm would have been even fresher going forward, Francisco Lindor probably wouldn’t have batted in the second, and the list goes on. But let’s just take everything at face value and continue down the box score.
The Indians and Twins exchange scoreless efforts in the second inning, but with a one-run lead in his pocket, Adam Plutko gives up a lead-off home run to Willians Astudillo to start the third. Plutko gets a little out of control with a wild pitch in a walk, but he eds the inning strong with a pair of strikeouts. The Catch-Up Rule changes nothing directly this inning.
But it will soon.
Mid of 3
Real Score: Indians 2, Twins 1
CUR Score: Indians 1, Twins 1
Another series of scoreless half-innings as Kohl Stewart makes the Indians regret not getting him out of the game in the first and Adam Plutko impresses in his stead as Trevor Bauer’s injury replacement. When the fifth inning rolls around, however, Plutko gives up a double to Eddie Rosario that scores Joe Mauer — two names that still haunt my dreams, no matter how bad the Twins have been in recent years.
This gives the Twins a 2-1 lead and ends the inning immediately thanks to the Catch-Up Rule.
Mid of 5
Real Score: Indians 2, Twins 2
CUR Score: Indians 1, Twins 2
In the bottom of the fifth, Edwin Encarnacion doubles off Stewart, ending his day after 4.2 innings, a pair of strikeouts, 94 pitches, and a very weird afternoon.
Again, who knows what kind of outing he has if he’s allowed to just walk off the mound in the first inning after the first run is given up? For now, we know he’s taken out for Trevor May, who walks Yonder Alonso and Melky Cabrera to keep the game tied at two.
End of 5
Real Score: Indians 2, Twins 2
CUR Score: Indians 2, Twins 2
Skip ahead to the seventh inning, and we get to The Great Cody Allen collapse.
The Catch-Up Rule isn’t clear on if more than one runner can score on a play, so strictly following the idea that you take a lead and the inning ends, the Twins would just take a one-run lead off Robbie Grossman’s single instead of two.
End of 7
Real Score: Indians 2, Twins 4
CUR Score: Indians 2, Twins 3
That’s, unfortunately, the only real difference. I guess you could say their argument sort of works — we get to the same conclusion but probably a lot quicker. A total of nine at-bats are chopped off, most of those coming when the Twins already have the lead and are just nit-picking at Adam Cimber and Tyler Olson. Maybe with the idea of fewer at-bats on the horizon, Tito manages the bullpen differently and it even saves a pitching change. You can see how the idea saves time through a domino effect of changes.
In the end, the Indians still lose, Cody Allen and I are no longer friends, and Francisco Lindor is amazing. Is it October yet?